Manchester United have named their team to face Newcastle United this evening.
Ralf Rangnick’s side take to the field after an enforced break of 16 days following postponements of the games against Brentford and Brighton before Christmas due to a Covid outbreak at the club.
In that time, he has been able to welcome back Raphael Varane into first team training, with only Paul Pogba absent as a long-term injury concern.
“We had to close Carrington for four days – Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday,” Rangnick told ManUtd.com. “The last training session before that break we were down to eight outfield players and three goalkeepers. On Tuesday we resumed for training here and on the first day we had 14 or 15 players and on Wednesday it was 18 to 20 and on Thursday we had 25. Apart from Paul Pogba we had all the players available at training which is a massive improvement within one week to have 17 players more available.
“Everyone has looked in good shape and good health and if everything stays like it is right now and we don’t get any further cases, and I’m optimistic and positive about that, then it will be difficult for me to decide not only on the starting XI, but on the eight players sitting on the bench.”
“If we’re all honest when I had my first game against Crystal Palace and the training session before I think had anyone told us this would happen I don’t think anyone would have believed it. We had this situation in Germany three or four weeks ago so they were a few weeks ahead of us with this fourth or fifth wave and quite a few players were positively-tested there at my former club Leipzig.
“For me it didn’t come as such a big, big surprise, of course I would have wished that it wouldn’t have happened, but I think for everybody it’s about making the best out of it and making sure we are being protected in the future and we don’t have any further cases in the next six months. I know that there is no guarantee for that, but we can still make sure we do everything we possibly can within our club that it doesn’t happen again.”
United have played Newcastle 172 times in their history, with 90 victories to 43 losses and 3i draws. United have scored 342 times and conceded 242 goals.
United’s record at St. James Park has been mixed in recent years. Last season a late rally of three goals in the last five minutes saw Ole Gunnar Solskjaer record a 4-1 win but Solskjaer and predecessor Jose Mourinho both tasted defeat as well as victory in the north east.
Newcastle, as we all know, were recently taken over and are set for much more prosperous times under Eddie Howe. Still, their immediate future in the Premier League is at risk, so how much of the next few years will be under Howe’s stewardship remains to be seen.
Last time out, United won 4-1 against the Toon, with Cristiano Ronaldo the star man scoring twice on his second debut at Old Trafford. Things seemed much easier then – United, who were hoping to challenge for the title, are locked in a race for the top four yet again at the turn of the calendar year.
The game kicks off at 8pm and is broadcast live in the UK on Sky Sports.
Dalot Varane Maguire Telles